Liberal Catholics

"All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future - all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God", 1Corinthians 3:22.

Party spirit is no new thing. While human frailty exists there will always be the push and shove of tribal spirit. The church is certainly not immune from this problem, the only difference being we use the authority of God's Word to denounce the opposition party. We all do it and we all deny it.

Up till recent times the Anglican church had three main parties; Low Church fundamentalists, Middle Church liberals, and High Church sacramentalists. Today these divisions are quite blurred. The outward form is there, but the content is anything but constant. For example, an increasing number of Middle to High Church ministries are neither liberal nor sacramental, but rather Biblical and conservative in theology.

The greatest diversity (and most often party spirit) is found in Low Church circles. In Sydney Australia, the two main groupings are the puritans (Reformed Evangelicals - Calvinist) and the accessing crew who are into church growth principles (Evangelicals - Arminian). There are three smaller groupings: the new liberals (New Evangelicals), charismatics and the old conservatives (Conservative Evangelicals). The smaller groupings have faced fairly heavy pressure. Most of the New Evangelicals have moved to other dioceses, while the charismatics have tended to move into Pentecostal ministries.

The Conservative Evangelicals are those who have continued to support the ministry principles of the children of the Wesleyan revival who remained in the Church of England. This group, initially called "Evangelicals", believed that the gospel was itself the "power of God unto salvation" and therefore could not be compromised by the limitations of human organization or tradition. The Anglican church may be a bit of an old maid, but she is not against God's Word.

Conservative Evangelicals seem to be the meat in the sandwich. Because we affirm Anglican form we get called "liberal catholics" by our fellow Evangelicals, and because we align with the Evangelical party we get lumped into the "fundamentalist" bag. Yet whatever the colour of the diocese, there remains a special place for a ministry that is both loyal to the gospel and Anglican form. Bishops should feel relaxed with clergy who are passionate for the communication of the gospel and the teaching of God's Word, but at the same time see no need to dismantle the worship traditions of their parish church.

Rather than build party spirit, "I follow Paul", "I follow Apollos", we would do better to affirm that "we are God's fellow workers."

[Pumpkin Cottage]